Domaine Saint Nicolas, 2014 Update

When I think back to all the discoveries I have made in the Loire Valley over the years, any number of which have surprised me in one way or another, none blew away erroneous preconceptions like the wines of Thierry Michon, of Domaine Saint Nicolas. Even with a special interest in the Loire Valley, I don’t mind confessing that I knew little of the Fiefs Vendéens, a collection of little wine regions dotted close to France’s Atlantic coast, some way south of Nantes and the much better known Muscadet appellation. All I knew was that these were struggling appellations, a region in decline, the area planted to vineyards contracting year on year. In the village of L’Île d’Olonne, for example, where Thierry’s father Patrice settled in the 1970s, there were at that time more than 100 vignerons, tending more than 300 hectares of vines. Now, however, there is just one; his name is, of course, Thierry Michon, this family’s domaine a last outpost of viticulture in the village.

Thierry Michon of Domaine Saint Nicolas

So I had it right when I believed these were disappearing appellations, but what about those preconceptions that turned out to be wrong? First, I thought the Fiefs Vendéens was bound to be a Muscadet lookalike, made from Melon de Bourgogne? No, wrong, there are many different varieties to be found here, not only well-known Ligérian characters such as Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir, but also more obscure curiosities, including Négrette and Grolleau Gris. Next, I thought to myself, surely the decline of this region reflects the fact that the wines are weedy and uninteresting, and people have simply voted against them with their wallet? No, wrong again. The first part of this is certainly not true, as I discovered when first tasting with Thierry a year or two ago, as his wines are absolutely delicious, the Chenin Blancs no less convincing than equivalents from Montlouis or Vouvray. Alright, I thought, but the wines can’t really be serious, can they? Surely they fall apart after a year or two, being simple quaffing wines for tourists visiting the coastal resorts? No, wrong again. Indeed, nothing could be further from the truth, as made apparent by encountering Thierry’s top Pinot Noir, La Grande Pièce, with over a decade in bottle; this was one of the most convincing Loire Pinot Noirs I have ever tasted.

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